Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds Are Struggling to Live Up to the Hype in the Premier League



Leeds were defeated 4-1 last week against Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace. This means they have lost their last three games in the league.Leeds were defeated 4-1 last week against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. This means they have lost their last three games in the league. | Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Leeds’ return to the promise land was always going to be a big topic of conversation following their16-year absence from England’s top flight. However, it’s fair to say that Leeds have found life harder in the Premier League than many had first predicted.

Sat in 15th place after eight games, having conceded three or more four times already this season, Leeds have serious defensive questions to answer.

None of their defenders have any Premier League experience to call upon and – even in a season this unpredictable – that is likely to cause issues for them.

? This time last Saturday…#CPFC | https://t.co/utMcYSlISB pic.twitter.com/Zq4zftzsFS

— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) November 14, 2020

A string of bad performances both going forward and at the back has left Marcelo Bielsa’s side with a lot to ponder during this international break. With 17 goals conceded in eight games, only Fulham can match their league-worst tally.

This is all the evidence you need to suggest that the hype and expectation around Bielsa’s Leeds has, so far, outweighed the performances on the pitch.

Patrick Bamford’s start to the season however has been as impressive as it is surprising, but Bielsa needs the rest of his talented squad to step up if they are to meet expectations.

The Whites currently sit 15th in the table having secured ten points over the opening eight fixtures. However, with clashes against Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea on the horizon, Leeds could find themselves in a bit of trouble come Christmas if they don’t address their frailties.

Leeds were last in the Premier League in the 2003/04. Their absence from the top-flight saw them slip down as low as League One. Leeds were last in the Premier League in the 2003/04. Their absence from the top-flight saw them slip down as low as League One. | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Bielsa has never been accused of lacking pragmatism, nor tactical knowhow, but something needs to change if we are to see the Leeds we thought we would this campaign. A current lack of creative output from new signings and woes at the back have thus far hindered Leeds, with the 4-1 loss to Crystal Palace being the perfect manifestation of this.

It’s fair to mention, however, that they have been without Kalvin Phillips for their last three matches. The England international is an integral element of their style of play with he’s impressive ranging of passing. However, having recruited heavily, as you’d expect a newly prompted side to do, you’d hope that Leeds would have enough bodies to ride-out absences. Summer acquisitions Diego Llorente, Raphinha and Rodrigo are all still yet to make a real impact at Elland Road.

Rodrigo signed for a club record £28m this summer from Valencia. The Spaniard has scored just once for Leeds so farRodrigo signed for a club record £28m this summer from Valencia. The Spaniard has scored just once for Leeds so far | Pool/Getty Images

And while the results have been a little disappointing at times, one can’t help but feel even more short changed by Leeds’ overall performances. They appear to approach each game in the same way. Forcing their opponents to break the high press and counter attacking where plausible. This worked very well for them in the Championship, but Bielsa needs to make his approach to matches more opponent-focused, something his past suggests he’s capable of doing. You simply can’t set up the same way against Leicester City and Crystal Palace expecting the same outcome.

Overall it’s not been a disastrous start to life back in the big time. They turned out very good performances against Manchester City and Aston Villa where Bamford scored his first career hat-trick.

All things considered, they’re about where the average newly promoted team might expect to be at this stage. But again, that’s not what we thought we were getting with the team. We as Premier League consumers aren’t judging this Leeds side by the same metric as Fulham or West Brom – two sides with undoubtedly less quality within their ranks, but we soon may have to.

There’s no doubt that retaining their Premier League status is and always has been the main objective from within the Leeds camp. To stay up and build from there is a very real possibility for Bielsa and his side, but they have a lot to address before that basic objective can become a reality, let alone anything more grand.





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